I turned 29 last week. It wasn’t the happiest of birthdays, for a number of reasons.
Aside from dealing with a family crisis (which I’m not at liberty to go into detail about just yet), there’s also a personal, somewhat existential struggle that’s been bringing me down for a while: am I where I thought I would be as a writer? How do I measure whether or not I’m successful?
And then this crushing moment: my dream job isn’t enough to pay the bills, and I’m going to need a day job. Which may not be in the field I went to school for, but I can still call myself a writer first, right?
Sometimes you can’t help it; you look at the jobs your friends have, the houses they are able to afford, and you think, I wish I had that. I have single friends in their thirties who are jealous that I am married, but they don’t realize that I’m jealous of them, too: I’m jealous of their financial independence. I’ve been building up my writing career for several years now, and I’m finally at a point where I can somewhat consistently pay my utility bills. I’m now a regular contributor to Huffington Post. I’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.
But let’s be real here: the only reason I’ve been able to do all this – blog, freelance, market and network using social media – is because of my husband’s income. Being a stay-at-home writer is awesome, but it’s not a realistic lifestyle for the average person.
One of the hardest parts about being a writer has been telling people what I do when they ask. It’s funny, because with literally any other profession, it’s considered impolite to ask how much you make, but when you’re an author and freelance writer, that question seems to be fair game. You don’t ever have to answer this question, unless the person asking is your life partner, or doing your taxes.
At a time when my peers post about getting promotions and moving their way up the ranks in the corporate world, I sometimes find myself wondering if I made the right choices. Obviously, if I hadn’t gotten married, I would have made very different career decisions. But when you stumble upon financial difficulties, and realize your own income is barely enough to cover what needs to be covered, insecurity is quite a natural response.
And let’s face it: the whole “Money doesn’t buy happiness” trope is only true to a certain extent. Money gets you food, shelter, and healthcare, which are all basic staples of happiness (no matter what the GOP says). Honestly, the people who tote this saying the most are the ones who seem to have plenty of money, or at the very least, are able to live comfortably.
I’ve had to remind myself of the strengths that will make me a strong candidate in the working world, even if that’s not where I am at the moment. I’ve had to remind myself that the skills I’ve developed – proofreading, copy-editing, freelance writing articles and meeting deadlines – are useful, in addition to other professional assets – being punctual, good at multi-tasking, efficient and hard-working. My credit isn’t too shabby, either. I’m not half bad at this whole adulting thing.
If there’s any slice of wisdom I can offer as I embark on my last year of my twenties, it’s this: numbers don’t equal worth. I’ve had write this one down multiple times: Numbers. Don’t. Equal. Worth. That number on my paystub may make it difficult to afford certain things, but I’m not less worthy as a human for it. Being a successful adult is more than how much money you make – and that exact number is no one else’s business.